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Some of the biggest players in the industry and other high-tech companies use channel “partners” to reach a portion of their customers. Many of these companies have seen indirect sales help open doors to new business opportunities faster, at a lower cost, and with lower risk.
Channel partners can provide a fast and effective way to penetrate new markets and expand existing customer relationships, allowing high-tech companies to focus on other strategic imperatives and core competencies. Channel partners bring established local-level networks and are closer to customers. Many hardware and software companies are finding that their channel partners influence a significant percentage of their business growth.
In this paper, we explore how to effectively engage channel partners, including preparing them for business or technology changes.
Investing in and collaborating with channel partners is a high priority for high-tech companies. CSOs of large technology companies (revenues of at least $1 billion) reported that revisiting their channel strategy was one of their top three Sales initiatives, according to the Accenture-sponsored 2013 CSO Insights Sales Performance Optimization research.
The high-tech industry is also undergoing an increasing demand for agility, with continual change being the norm. However, a different research initiative indicated that only 21 percent of electronics and high-tech companies’ COOs strongly believe they are well-positioned to respond rapidly and effectively to changes in the global marketplace. Continuous change is driving firms to rely on channel partners to help identify new opportunities, manage risk, and maximize revenues while managing costs.
This shift in revenue toward the indirect channel has driven increased investment in Partner Relationship Management (PRM) solutions to help achieve the scale necessary to compete.
Working with, and enhancing, channel partners is also critical as major industry trends within mobile broadband, consumer demand, and globalization of markets, operations, and product portfolios place pressure on the high-tech industry to rapidly innovate and create more complex solutions. More and more, channel partners will be an integral part of most business change.
Collaboration with channel partners is important to delivering differentiated value to customers. As an example, companies and their channel partners should use the same tools to enhance their effectiveness.
Managing partners through change can prove particularly challenging. The channel is not merely additional sales people within the organization, but includes separate entities that need to be mentored, managed, and incentivized differently. Utilizing channel partners is an investment, as programs and strategies should be developed that are responsive to channel partners’ needs and drive them in selling the products and services to the end customer. If high-tech firms fail to make it easy for their partners to sell their solutions, those partners will find other solutions to sell. For example, failure on the part of a reseller to fully adopt a high-tech manufacturer’s CRM system can translate to lost revenue for the high-tech company. If a product or service is easy to sell, partners can be better positioned to present it to customers as the option best suited to meet their specific needs.
Accenture outlines suggested practices for partner analysis and deployment segmentation, partner change management, global partner engagement and partner adoption:
Partner Analytics & Segmentation: The first step in planning any partner change is to know the partner audience. It is also important to segment and target certain partners or sets of partners as “high-touch” or “low-touch.”
Execute a Partner Engagement Strategy: After segmenting and determining which partners to engage and when, the partner engagement strategy can be developed. Executing a successful partner engagement strategy involves five key components: impact assessment, stakeholder management, training, communications, and a deployment plan.
Manage Partners Globally: Creating and maintaining a two-way dialogue with partners is vital to success. A continuous feedback loop can be established with partners as soon as the project begins and may include a kick-off meeting, deployment planning meetings, and ad-hoc meetings as needed.
Achieve Adoption: The key components of adoption include providing partner support, tracking adoption metrics, executing partner campaigns/incentives, and leveraging internal users to drive adoption. All of these items should be captured in an adoption strategy and plan.
Avoid Common Adoption Barriers: There are several common adoption barriers that are often encountered during a deployment. These could include unsatisfactory system quality, a non-intuitive interface, “living in two worlds”, and/or pricing and discounting differences.
October 17, 2013
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